View Full Version : USO moves one step closer to historic recognition

12-15-08, 07:14 AM
USO moves one step closer to historic recognition
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December 14, 2008 - 7:00 PM

Judy Pitchford has waited years to see the Jacksonville United Service Organization added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Now it's one step closer to being there.

Jacksonville USO Director Tammy Price called Pitchford, the president of the USO of North Carolina, on Wednesday to let her know a plaque was being hung outside the building - a plaque stating, "This building is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places."

"When I got the phone call (Wednesday), I thought that's the best Christmas gift I could have gotten," Pitchford said.

But the news isn't just good for her, she said, it's news many have been waiting for.

"It's about this community and it's about the USO building," Pitchford said.

The building was one of the original 300 United Service Organizations built in 1941 and 1942.

"This one in Jacksonville is the only one standing," Pitchford said. The rest were demolished or sold to the communities where they stood.

Pitchford began the process of putting the USO on the registry shortly after she became the local USO director in 2002.

"When I learned all about the history, I thought ‘that's amazing,'" she said.

She contacted Camp Lejeune to find out how to register federal buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, and they took the question to Naval Station Norfolk - the base that owns the building that houses the USO.

Then in July 2004, a historical analysis was completed.

"The study ... went up to the powers that be," Pitchford said, explaining that it went to Camp Lejeune, then the Department of the Navy and finally the Department of Defense.

"We're just one step closer to giving that building and the people in the community that honor of having one more building (on the registry)," she said.

The Jacksonville USO was deemed eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 17 of that year, North Carolina National Register Coordinator Ann Swallow said.

Now, Pitchford waits to learn what the next steps are to get the building she loves its official historic designation.

"Once we get on that National Registry, that building is golden," she said.

While Jim Gabbert with the National Register of Historic Places couldn't comment on the USO specifically, he did say that the next step depends on the property owner - in this case, the Department of Defense.

"The act of nominating the property to the National Register can be done by anyone but is typically done by or with the consent of the owner of the property," he said. "The nomination is processed through the state historical preservation office unless it is a federally owned property. If it's a federally owned property, it goes through a different federal channel. Eventually all nominations end up here for review by the keeper of the National Register."

The federal process stays within the federal government, Swallow said.

"Usually it is a federal agency itself that would sponsor the nomination or putting the documentation together for it to be listed. So DoD would either need to sponsor the nomination itself or they might be willing to let a support group or friends do it," she said.

The DoD would then speak with its federal history preservation officer, who would nominate the property, Swallow said.

Once the process is complete, Onslow County will have another to add to its current list of 15 historic places, according to the National Register of Historic Places.

The history of the USO building is one that many directors have felt, Pitchford said.

Doors open and close on their own, and the door going into the auditorium rattles, she said.

"There's definitely some spirit in the building," she said. One director refused to stay in the building after dark and others pretend they don't see the doors moving on their own, she said.

Pitchford, on the other hand, doesn't worry about the rattling doors. Instead, she views them as a visit from a former USO regular who used to stand at the doors and rattle them when he wanted her attention.

"It's things like that," she said. "We know that there's something special in the building."

Contact Jacksonville/Onslow County reporter Amanda Hickey at 910-219-8461.